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Penn State clears Mann in Climate-gate probe

By Juliet Eilperin
A Pennsylvania State University investigative committee has cleared a climate scientist of ethical misconduct in connection with an exchange of e-mails about global warming known as Climate-gate.

Michael Mann, a meteorology professor at Penn State, came under fire after hackers broke into the server of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in Britain and published thousands of e-mails and documents the center's staff had sent to other climate researchers.

Mann is best known as the author of the "hockey-stick" graph, which showed there has been a rapid, recent rise in the Earth's temperature. His work has long been under attack by global-warming skeptics. But the criticism became more heated after an e-mail between scientists referring to a statistical "trick" used in Mann's research surfaced among the leaked correspondence. Both Mann and the author of the e-mail said the e-mail was taken out of context and the research data is solid.

The Penn State panel, which launched its probe on Nov. 30, dismissed three of the allegations as not credible but continued to examine whether Mann "seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities." On Thursday it concluded that he had not.

While the panel called Mann's decision to share "unpublished manuscripts with third parties, without first having received express consent from the authors of such manuscripts... careless and inappropriate," it unanimously concluded "that there is no substance to the allegation" that Mann engaged in academic misconduct.

Mann welcomed the panel's findings.

"I'm pleased that the last phase of Penn State's investigation has now been concluded, and that it has cleared me of any wrongdoing. These latest findings should finally put to rest the baseless allegations against me and my research," he said in a statement.

But the report will likely do little to quell the political debate over climate science, which has only intensified over the past year.

Myron Ebell, a global warming skeptic who directs Energy and Global Warming Policy for the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, noted that the Penn State ethics review only interviewed one of Mann's critics, MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen.

"It has been designed as a whitewash," said Ebell, whose group accepts contributions from the energy industry. "To admit that Dr. Mann is a conman now would be extremely embarrassing for Penn State. But the scandal will not be contained no matter how many whitewash reports are issued. The evidence of manipulation of data is too obvious and too strong."

However former House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), who now serves as a special adviser to the Project on Climate Science, an environmental advocacy coalition, hailed the report.

"This exoneration should close the book on the absurd episode in which climate scientists were unjustly attacked when in fact they have been providing a great public service," Boehlert said in a statement. "The attacks on scientists were a manufactured distraction, and today's report is a welcome return to common sense. While scientists can now focus on their work, policy makers need to address the very real problem of climate change."

Mann's professional conduct is also being questioned in Virginia, where Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has said he is investigating whether Mann committed fraud when he sought and spent five public grants for his research while working at the University of Virginia. Cuccinelli is seeking to subpoena the university for information on those grants. The university is challenging the request, arguing that the attorney general is intruding on Mann's academic freedom.

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.


Juliet Eilperin

 |  July 1, 2010; 3:30 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

To Media Mtters point, will this report appear in the the dead tree edition of The Post?

Posted by: bob16 | July 2, 2010 4:06 PM
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@DGB100: You don't seem to know how research universities work. Covering up for a researcher gone bad would be institutional suicide.

You further assume that (a) you can only get grants for AGW research, and (b) it must be known in advance that the research will support the AGW hypothesis. Both of these propositions are ludicrous on their face.

If you want to find religion in this debate, have a look at those who use everything except science to dispute science.

Posted by: chrisd3 | July 2, 2010 9:52 AM
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Except of course in the AGW debate, the AGW supporters are more akin the creationists and Dr. Mann is their very own William Jennings Bryan. PSU was sending whitewash signals on this from the very beginning, it's not like Mann is the only Climate Scientist at the Univ., The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences houses Meteorology (the largest program in the country) and EESI (a huge climate research consortium) as well as a half dozen other smaller research units cashing in on AGW (Glaciology is another big one). Taking Mann down would have made PSU a pariah state in the AGW world and all the GREEN that is what Green Science is all about would flow to a different institution. Of course a number of PSU fac. and alums are strong AGW opponents, so we'll see how that backlash plays out.

Posted by: dgb100 | July 2, 2010 8:40 AM
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@Dougd1: I agree with your points, but one clarification: The Post didn't actually sit on this report for a month. The PSU investigation was completed and released in two parts. The second part, i.e., this part, was only released yesterday.

Posted by: chrisd3 | July 2, 2010 8:05 AM
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As the other commenters have noted, there is no reasonable motive for PSU to "whitewash" this incident in order protect a single faculty member. University administrators and faculty are extremely concerned about their institution's status, and any hint of a whitewash would greatly damage their reputation.

The article itself was poorly handled. First, it is basically another sloppy "he said/she said" approach to coverage, with the "climategate" position apparently represented by a dishonest partisan, Ebell. Second, given that the report was completed nearly a month ago, why did the Post wait so long to cover it?

Finally, why was this speculative conclusion included half way through the particle: "But the report will likely do little to quell the political debate over climate science, which has only intensified over the past year." If we had a legitimate media, the opposite would surely be true.

Posted by: dougd1 | July 2, 2010 1:44 AM
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Steven McIntyre's started all of this, and this is why.

Posted by: glenncz | July 1, 2010 11:03 PM
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It is beyond understanding why it was necessary to quote Myron Ebell for this story. He's not a scientist and has no training in climate science or any other science. His employer, CEI, had the stated purpose of "creating intellectual ammunition to support free markets" and has received major funding from The Koch Foundation, ExxonMobil, Texaco, and other energy industry sources. It would be difficult to find a more biased individual.

Mann and the other scientists involved in the hacked UEA emails have been cleared of wrongdoing completely and repeatedly by multiple inquiries.

It wasn't necessary to interview ANY "skeptical" scientists for this inquiry, since PSU is perfectly well aware of ethical standards in research and completely competent to judge the quality of research. But they interviewed Lindzen anyway.

Ebell's charge of "whitewash" was utterly, and boringly, predictable.

"Balanced" reporting is completely out of control. Sometimes there IS only one side to a story. But the media will find some way to invent one, in this case by digging up an industry shill who will do it for them. The Post was, at one time, a courageous newspaper. Those days appear to be over.

Posted by: chrisd3 | July 1, 2010 5:33 PM
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Mr. Ebell and anyone else who thinks that the Penn State investigation was a whitewash should read the following:

As the S&R report says, it's extremely unlikely that a university with PSU's excellent reputation would risk that reputation for any faculty researcher or the small amount of grant money that the researcher brought into the university.

Posted by: angliss | July 1, 2010 4:35 PM
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"But the report will likely do little to quell the political debate over climate science" ...

because there is a hardcore group of people that will stop at nothing to discredit climate science just as there are hardcore creationists who are immune to the effects of evidence.

The panel made a through review: "From among these 376 files, the Inquiry Committee focused on 47 files that contained emails or email strings that were deemed relevant. On December 17, 2009, the Inquiry Committee (Pell, Scaroni, Yekel), Dr. Brune and Dr. Foley met to review the emails, the RA-1O inquiry process, and their respective activities. It was agreed that these individuals would meet again in early January and that they would use the time until that meeting to review the relevant information, including the above mentioned e-mails, journal articles, OP-ED columns, newspaper and magazine articles, the National Academy of Sciences
report entitled "Surface Temperature reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years," ISBN: 0-309-66144-7 and various blogs on the internet."

Posted by: mike_midwest | July 1, 2010 4:34 PM
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